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What's the Difference Between Hiking and Work Boots?

the difference between hiking and work boots

Given the hefty price tag that can go along with purchasing new boots, it's understandable that some people may look to get double duty out of a pair. After all, hiking and work boots can look somewhat similar, so is there any harm in wearing the same set on the job as up in the mountains?

As is the case for any special hobby, having the right equipment is key to getting all that you can out of it, and hiking is no exception. It's important to recognize the features that set a hiking boot apart from one that you'd wear on a work site, because in doing so, your skills and enjoyment of the sport are likely to improve.


Perhaps the single most important distinction between a hiking and work boot is the weight of the shoe itself. Due to the increased hazards of a construction site or other facility where a standard work boot would be necessary, a steel toe is often a requirement, adding significant weight. While there are certainly dangers on the hiking trail, trips and abrasion are more common, so a toe cap or bumper, which is typically made of a lighter material like rubber, are used instead.


While some occupations that require work boots may involve significant walking (or even running, in certain situations), the materials used in the sole of hiking boots are engineered to endure long distances, all the while keeping you comfortable. Hiking boots require some degree of flexibility so as to adapt to uneven ground, and while you do need proper ankle support, especially if you're carrying a heavy backpack, the rigidity of work boots can become an unsafe hindrance.


Additionally, the lug sole on a hiking boot includes grooves to increase stability and traction. Most work boots feature a rubber outsole without such deep indentations, providing some slip-resistance, but not to the extent that a hiking boot can offer, especially in wet, muddy, or snowy conditions.

As any hiker will probably tell you, comfort and safety are the two most important features that a boot can offer. Finding the right hiking boot can be a challenge and may seem an unnecessary expense, but after conquering the highest peak, your body will thank you for making the investment.

Where will your boots take you? Bring us with you by tweeting @shoebuy with #MyBootStyle

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Frequently Asked Questions:

  Q. What is a lug sole?

A. This type of sole is a key feature to many hiking boots. Find out how it keeps you safe.

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  Q. What is Vibram®?

A. Read how the founder of this popular brand of rubber outsoles changed hiking forever.

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  Q. What is a toe cap or bumper?

A. Similar to the steel-toe found in many work boots, this additional layer of material keeps you safe out on the trails. Find out how.

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  Q. What is GORE-TEX®?

A. This popular brand of waterproof liners keeps your feet dry while also allowing ventilation and sweat evaporation. Find out what it's made of.

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  Q. What's an upper?

A. The upper is the part of a boot or shoe above the sole...

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  Q. What's an insole?

A. The insole is the fixed inner sole of a shoe or boot where your foot bottom rests...

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  Q. What's an outsole?

A. It's the outermost layer of the sole (i.e., the exterior bottom)...

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  Q. What's a welt?

A. The welt is a strip of material, often leather, which is sewn around the edge of the outsole to attach the upper to the outsole of a pair of boots...

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  Q. What's a steel toe?

A. A steel-toe boot contains protective reinforcement made of steel...

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  Q. What makes a shoe or boot slip-resistant?

A. Slip resistance is determined by a shoe's outsole design, material, and tread pattern...

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  Q. What's a rubber outsole?

A. A rubber outsole is when the bottom of a boot or shoe is made of rubber...

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  Q. What's an EVA Midsole?

A. Suffer from back pain? Your footwear may be partially to blame. An EVA midsole helps to disperse weight and provide stability, learn more.

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  Q. What's a Steel Shank in Boots?

A. A shank is crucial to the functionality of your boots; find out why.

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  Q. What's Thinsulate?

A. Did you know the same material used in sleeping bags could help keep your feet warm?

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  Q. What's Welting?

A. This method creates a durable, long-lasting boot. You might not even have to replace your pair once it starts to wear. Find out more.

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  Q. What's a Blake Welt?

A. Blake welting enhances flexibility given fewer layers of material used. Find out how it works.

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  Q. What's a Goodyear Welt?

A. Goodyear welting allows for more support and water-resistance due to extra layers. Find out how it works.

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